[Ads-l] Anecdote: Knowing where to tap

Dan Goncharoff thegonch at GMAIL.COM
Fri Mar 3 12:19:16 EST 2017

"a deal of labor": how much is a deal, if it is not a great deal?


On Fri, Mar 3, 2017 at 12:13 PM, ADSGarson O'Toole <
adsgarsonotoole at gmail.com> wrote:

> A popular tale extols the value of expert knowledge, and I was asked
> to explore its provenance.
> Summary: An expert is able to perform a simple action to solve a
> recalcitrant problem. The large bill sent by the expert is challenged.
> A subsequent itemized bill displays a small fee for the simple action
> and a large fee for knowing which simple action to perform.
> Below is an instance of the anecdote in 1908. An earlier citation or
> other pertinent information would be welcome.
> Date: February 1, 1908
> Periodical: The Journal of the Society of Estate Clerks of Works
> Volume 21
> Article: A Moral with an Ending
> Quote Page 30
> Publisher: Printed and Published for the Society of Estate Clerks of
> Works at the "Hampshire Observer" Printing Works, Winchester, England
> Database: Google Books Full View
> https://books.google.com/books?id=w-nVAAAAIAAJ&q=%22tap-tap%22#v=snippet&
> [Begin excerpt]
> He was the best machinist in the district, and it was for that reason
> that the manager had overlooked his private delinquencies. But at last
> even his patience was exhausted, and he was told to go, and another
> man reigned in his stead at the end of the room.
> And then the machine, as though in protest, refused to budge an inch,
> and all the factory hands were idle. Everyone who knew the difference
> between a machine and a turnip tried his hand at the inert mass of
> iron. But the machine, metaphorically speaking, laughed at them, and
> the manager sent for the discharged employee. And he left the comfort
> of the "Bull" parlour and came.
> He looked at the machine for some moments, and talked to it as a man
> talks to a horse, and then climbed into its vitals and called for a
> hammer. There was the sound of a "tap-tap-tap," and in a moment the
> wheels were spinning, and the man was returning to the "Bull" parlour.
> And in the course of time the mill-owner had a bill:--"To mending
> machine, £10. 10s." And the owner of the works, being as owners go, a
> poor man, sent a polite note to the man, in which he asked him if he
> thought tapping a machine with a hammer worth ten guineas. And then he
> had another bill:--"To tapping machine with hammer, 10s.; to knowing
> where to tap it, £10; total, £10. 10s."
> And the man was reinstated in his position, and was so grateful that
> he turned teetotaller and lived a great and virtuous old age. And the
> moral is that a little knowledge is worth a deal of labour.
> [End excerpt]
> Below is a version from 1922:
> Date: March 24, 1922
> Newspaper: Minnesota Daily Star (The Minneapolis Star)
> Newspaper Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
> Short Article: Knowledge Is Power
> Quote Page 17, Column 7
> Database: Newspapers.com
> [Begin excerpt]
> Knowledge Is Power
> In a factory one of the huge machines stopped suddenly. In spite of
> exhortation, language, oil and general tinkering it refused to budge.
> Production slowed down and the management tore its hair.
> At last an expert was called in. He examined the machine for a few
> minutes and then asked for a hammer. After tapping here and there for
> about 10 minutes, he announced that the machine was ready to move. It
> did.
> Two days later the management received a bill for $250—the expert's
> fee. The management demanded a detailed statement of the account.
> He received this:
> To tapping machine with hammer. $25
> Knowing where to tap .......... 225
> [End excerpt]
> Garson
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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